Cast: Alexandre Guanse, Kim Ho-jung, Kim Ji-young, Kim Young-min, Ryu Abel
Official Selection, 2019 Jeonju International Film Festival
Kim Hee-jung is one of the most exciting filmmakers in Korea today–a woman who rolls the dice in films that range from the arctic minimalism of Snow Paths (SDAFF ‘15) to her fourth film, this year’s startlingly good A FRENCH WOMAN. Theatrical in the freshest and most inexplicable ways, this is a film best experienced by simply surrendering to its dizzyingly immersive ride.
After living in France for decades, Mira heads straight to Seoul, fleeing the abrupt end to her marriage in a Paris cafe. Except for Mira, time becomes a funny thing. She enters a bathroom and slips in and out between 2015 and 1997, until perhaps, a sudden phone call in the dark wakes her. As Mira wanders back and forth in time with the foggy confusion of jet lag, she meets her former classmates–now a successful filmmaker and theater director–and stares curiously at the vulnerabilities of her age: a thwarted acting career, peers who have surpassed her, an unfaithful husband, a nervous rekindling of an old flame. Drinking endless soju at a timeless bar, the friends relive glory days or wrangle tensely about acting, art, and sex, encounters which for Mira toggle between an animated past and a relinquished present. Through it all–strange visitors at night, a shoulder pain, an insistent phone–there’s something that Mira can’t quite place.
Kim has crafted the interior mutings and mutations of a private woman, one whose edited memories have birthed gaps, little emptinesses which keep us magnetized. Intricately structured, at turns menacing and lush, A FRENCH WOMAN is a smart woman’s midnight swim in the swampiness of reckoning and regret–a place we want to swirl around in indefinitely.